Actors portray a scene during the Trail of Tears Drama, which took place at the Cherokee Heritage Center’s amphitheater from 1969 to 2005 in Park Hill, Okla. The play depicted the struggles of Cherokee people on the Trail of Tears and when they arrived in Indian Territory. COURTESY PHOTO

Cherokee amphitheater once Trail of Tears Drama site

Dancers hold aloft a Phoenix Dancer during the Trail of Tears Drama, which opened in 1969 at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Okla. The summer drama opened with about 75 actors, techs and support staff and was written by Kermit Hunter. COURTESY PHOTO The Trail of Tears Drama opened in 1969 in an amphitheater built especially for it at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Okla. The stage had nine places for scenes and there were revolving stages on each side of the main stage. COURTESY PHOTO The Trail of Tears Drama opened in 1969 in an amphitheater built especially for it at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Okla. The stage had nine places for scenes and there were revolving stages on each side of the main stage. The play depicted the struggles of Cherokee people on the Trail of Tears and when they arrived in Indian Territory. COURTESY PHOTO An audience attending the Trail of Tears Drama in 1989 listens to pre-show entertainment. The drama opened in 1969 in an amphitheater built especially for it at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Okla. COURTESY PHOTO
Dancers hold aloft a Phoenix Dancer during the Trail of Tears Drama, which opened in 1969 at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Okla. The summer drama opened with about 75 actors, techs and support staff and was written by Kermit Hunter. COURTESY PHOTO
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
05/29/2013 07:58 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Tonia Hogner Weavel is an alumna of the original Trail of Tears Drama that began playing in June 1969 in an amphitheater built especially for it at the Cherokee Heritage Center. She was the principal dancer for it in 1974 and 1976.

Weavel, who is now the CHC’s education director, said the drama opened with about 75 actors, techs and support staff. It was written by Kermit Hunter and continued the dramatic story performed by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians titled “Unto These Hills,” which is still shows today in Cherokee, N.C.

“It (“Unto These Hills”) was the first half of the removal, and ours was after we (Cherokee people) reached Indian Territory,” she said.

In an unusual twist, Weavel said the amphitheater where the drama was performed until 2005 was designed to fit the script. “Usually the theater is built and you just work with what you have but in this instance the theater was designed to fit the show.”

Charles “Chief” Boyd, an architecture graduate at the time, designed the amphitheater after traveling to New York City to research ideas with CHC co-founder Col. Martin Hagerstrand. The theater was designed using a “thrust stage or extended into the audience,” was steeply graded and fan-shaped.

“It was built to form an intimacy with the play. Even though it was a great outdoor amphitheater, it was designed to be as intimate to the stage as possible,” Weavel said.

The audience was never more than 75 feet from the stage, she added. And because of the steepness of the amphitheater, an audience of 1,800 could look down on the stage and actors.

“There was not a bad seat in the house, literally. For the most part you didn’t miss anything in any seat in the house,” Weavel said.

At the back of the main stage was a “mountaintop” with natural foliage. Behind the stage were dressing rooms. The stage had nine places for scenes and there were revolving stages on each side of the main stage.

Another impressive feature was it was the first outdoor theater with an air-cooled stage. On the stage sides were air-conditioning vents that blew across the stage, which Weavel said was necessary on hot nights.

Also, the stage’s design and theater served another purpose. Weavel said in the old days of the theater, actors did not use amplification devices to project their voices and needed “theater voices” that could project to the back of the stage.

“So we didn’t use any kind of microphone system because the theater was built in such a way as to carry the sound up,” she said. “We did have music and we did have narration, so there was a sound system.”

Later, actors used wireless microphones when they became more available and easier to use.

“The theater was a grand place. It was at a time when the technology we have today was not in place, so our entertainment was self-imposed. Like the drive-in theater that has gone by the wayside, amphitheaters have done the same. It’s much easier to sit in your air-conditioned home and dial up a movie on Netflix...than it is to take the effort to get in your car and go sit out in maybe 95-degree heat and make the effort to go see a show,” Weavel said.

She said ultimately that is why the drama stopped. Dwindling attendance along with the cost of putting on the drama made it impossible to continue.

“One thing that has not died is the people’s memories and their experiences with the Trail of Tears Drama from 1969 until it closed in 2005. It set wonderful memories and it allowed people to learn more about Cherokee culture,” she said.

will-chavez@cherokee.org


918-207-3961

About the Author
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M.

He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life.
He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association.

Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.
WILL-CHAVEZ@cherokee.org • 918-207-3961
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M. He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life. He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association. Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.

Culture

BY JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
02/21/2017 03:30 PM
BELL, Okla. – Christopher Cojeen, a contracted archeologist with the Cherokee Nation, and a two other CN departments recently performed three site visits in Adair County near where a new federally funded road will be built near the community of Bell. Cojeen said during the last 20 to 25 years he has worked with the tribe to determine if there are homesteads or prehistoric sites located in the path of projects that use tribal or federal funds including road, community services buildings or housing projects. “Initially, we went out and did an archeological survey of the road. Just visually looking at the surface, looking for homesteads, prehistoric sites like you saw or cemeteries like you saw,” he said. “The Cherokee Nation has a lot of cemeteries that aren’t fenced, right up adjacent to the road…and today we were just coming back out with the roads department and Sheila Bird to determine how significant the sites were and whether we can go ahead and get funding to go to a second stage.” He added that the sites visited deserve to go to a testing level of recovery because there is so much lithic stone material on the surface as well as projectile points that are characteristic to a time period found at the sites. Two cemeteries were viewed in an effort to see the condition and state of the sites. Upon departmental recommendations, additional testing will occur around both cemeteries to determine if any burials are close to where the road will be built. Additional testing is warranted to ensure burials will not be disturbed during the construction. Another location visited he said would be an ideal location for a prehistoric site due to its location and relation to water tributaries. “You’ve got a first terrace like we were standing on over the creek and occupation like that would’ve happened during the archaic period for as much as 1,000 to 2,000 years (ago),” he said. “This would start roughly at 0 A.D. going back 1,000 to 2,000 years B.C.” At that age he said, it makes it difficult to determine a kind of “people” that may have inhabited the location. “That’s old enough that you’re really just looking at a time period. Many people do have a good idea of what groups were in this area at the time obviously, the Cherokee Nation brought in on the Trail of Tears wouldn’t be one of the tribes that would probably lay claim to this area prehistorically,” Cojeen said. Providing this type of service, he said, all people would benefit from with a better understanding of prehistory, but his involvement is due to a federal law protecting sites prehistoric and historic sites. “Aside from that, you’ve got an area which has a great number of stone tool recovery, and if we can find it in a dateable sequence, and this being right above the creek probably did have a lot of deposition that got laid over time. We might find archaic tools on the surface and as we go back middle archaic tools and early archaic or maybe even Paleo-Indian material resting at the bottom of the whole thing. If we have a good stratigraphic situation like that, then we can learn a lot about the changes in occupation over time.” Moving forward, Cojeen said, they’ll go into a testing phase of recovery where they’ll place areas in “one by one’s like you see on T.V.,” he said. Check back with the Cherokee Phoenix for updates on this story.
BY STAFF REPORTS
02/10/2017 12:00 PM
LONGMONT, Colo. – First Nations Development Institute, a national Native American nonprofit organization that works to improve Native economies and communities, on Feb. 2 announced it has received a $2.7 million grant for a three-year Native arts project. This award will position First Nations to expand its Native Arts Initiative, formerly known as the “Native Arts Capacity Building Initiative,” into 2019. Launched in early 2014, the purpose of the Native Arts Initiative is to support the perpetuation and proliferation of Native American arts, cultures and traditions as integral to Native community life. It does this by providing organizational and programmatic resources to Native-led organizations and tribal government programs that have existing programs in place that support Native artists and traditional arts in their communities. Since 2014, First Nations has awarded more than $600,000 in grant funds to various eligible Native-led nonprofit organizations and tribal programs in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin to bolster the sustainability of their organizational and programmatic infrastructure as well as the professional development of their staff and leadership. Under the expansion, First Nations will continue to offer competitive funding opportunities to Native-led nonprofit organizations and tribal programs in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. First Nations will begin to offer competitive funding opportunities to Native-led nonprofit organizations and tribal programs in two new regions – the Southwest, including Arizona, New Mexico and Southern California, and the Pacific Northwest, including Washington and Oregon. First Nations expects to release a request for proposals in the coming days and will award approximately 45 Supporting Native Arts Grants of up to $32,000 each over the next three years to eligible Native-led nonprofits and tribal government programs in these regions. NAI recipient organizations and programs will utilize their grants to strengthen their organizational and programmatic infrastructure and sustainability, which will reinforce their support of the field of Native American artists as culture bearers and traditional arts in their communities. In addition to financial support, the NAI will offer individualized training and technical assistance opportunities for grantees as well as competitive professional development opportunities for staff members of eligible Native-led organizations and tribal programs. For a list of current and former NAI grantees, visit <a href="http://www.firstnations.org" target="_blank">http://www.firstnations.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
02/09/2017 04:00 PM
PARK HILL, Okla. – The 46th annual Trail of Tears Art Show is set to run from April 8 through May 6 at the Cherokee Heritage Center with categories including painting, sculpture, pottery, basketry, graphics, jewelry and miniatures. Artists will compete for more than $15,000. Artists must be a citizen of a federally recognized tribe to enter the show. A submission fee of $10 is charged per entry and entries must be submitted to callie-chunestudy@cherokee.org by 5 p.m. on March 15. Artists who wish to enter their works should submit photographs of their completed works, an entry form and the fee. These items must be submitted at the same time or the entry will be disqualified. A list of accepted artwork will be posted on March 22 on the CHC website. An awards reception is set for 6 p.m. on April 7 to recognize winners in each category. The Trail of Tears Art Show began in 1972 as a means of fostering the development of painting as a form of expressing Native American heritage. Initiated before the completion of the museum, the art show was held in the rain shelter of the Tsa-La-Gi Theater. In 1975, it became the first major exhibition in the present museum. The CHC is located at 21192 S. Keeler Drive. For more information, call 1-888-999-6007 or visit <a href="http://www.cherokeeheritage.org" target="_blank">www.cherokeeheritage.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
02/05/2017 10:00 AM
PARK HILL, Okla. – Native American youths are invited to participate in the 2017 Cherokee Art Market Youth Competition and Show, scheduled for April 8 through May 6. All artists must be citizens of a federally recognized tribe, in grades sixth through 12, and are limited to one entry per person. There is no fee to participate in the competition. Entries will be received between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on March 31 at the Cherokee Heritage Center. All submissions must include an entry form attached to the artwork, an artist agreement form and a copy of the artist’s Certificate Degree of Indian Blood card or tribal card. Artwork will be evaluated by division and grade level. Awards include Best in Show: $250; first place: $150; second place: $125; and third place: $100. The Best in Show winner will also receive a free booth in October at the Cherokee Art Market. A reception will be held at 6 p.m. on April 7 at the CHC in conjunction with the 46th annual Trail of Tears Art Show. Winning artwork will remain on display throughout the duration of the Cherokee Art Market Youth Show, ending May 9. Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism is hosting the Cherokee Art Market Youth Competition. For more information, call Deborah Fritts at 918-384-6990 or email <a href="mailto: cherokeeartmarket@cnent.com">cherokeeartmarket@cnent.com</a>. The CHC is located at 21192 S. Keeler Drive.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
02/03/2017 04:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Museum officials said construction of the American Indian Cultural Center & Museum in Oklahoma City may resume as soon as this fall after a decades-long effort to create it. Fundraisers have collected $10.8 million in private donations, the Oklahoman reported. Fundraisers said they’ve collected enough funds to complete and open the museum, as outlined in a 2015 state law. Museum officials approved a plan to allow the acceptance of the donated money and give Executive Director Blake Wade authority to deposit the money in a state “completion fund.” According to Oklahoma City attorney John Michael Williams, depositing the private donations would start the process of issuing state bonds. He said the process would take four to five months. “I predict construction, if things go routinely, construction would start in October,” he said. The private donations are the first installment of the state’s $25 million pledge of matching funds to finish the museum. The cost to complete the museum is estimated to be at least $65 million. “This is a milestone resolution, a milestone day,” Williams said. The inside of the 162,000-square-foot museum remained mostly unfinished when construction came to a halt five years ago due to insufficient state funding, with the exterior of the museum nearly finished. In 2015, Oklahoma City leaders and the Chickasaw Nation partnered to complete and open the museum. Their partnership also includes the development of surrounding commercial property. Currently, the board includes $876,000 into its annual expenses to maintain the facility, secure the site and preserve warranties.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/30/2017 12:15 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism will host cultural classes to learn the art of making traditional pucker-toe moccasins. The Saturday workshops are scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for March 11, July 15, Oct. 7 and Nov. 4 at the Cherokee National Prison Museum. Registration costs $35 and is available at <a href="http://www.cherokeegiftshop.com" target="_blank">www.cherokeegiftshop.com</a>. Early registration is recommended, as class size is limited to 15 people. All materials will be provided to make traditional pucker-toe moccasins, which were historically worn by the Cherokee people. Participants are asked to bring their own lunches. The Cherokee National Prison was the only penitentiary building in Indian Territory from 1875 to 1901. It housed sentenced and accused prisoners from throughout the territory. It is located at 124 E. Choctaw St. For more information, call 1-77-779-6977 or visit <a href="http://www.VisitCherokeeNation.com" target="_blank">www.VisitCherokeeNation.com</a>.